|« Scholars from Al Azhar University on January 20 suspended their twice-annual talks with the Vatican.|
(Victoria Hazou/AFP/Getty Images)
The growing conflict between the Vatican and Islam
Scholars from Al Azhar University in Egypt, labeled by Encyclopedia Britannica as the “chief center of Islamic and Arabic learning in the world,” suspended talks with the Vatican after a meeting of the university’s Islamic Research Academy on January 20.
“The freeze was prompted by the repeated attacks on Islam by Pope Benedict xvi of the Vatican,” said a statement from the university published by Mena, Egypt’s official news agency. “The pope has reiterated that Muslims oppress non-Muslims who are living with them in the Middle East.”
“The pope has repeatedly alleged that non-Muslims are being persecuted in Muslim countries in the Middle East region, which is far from the truth and is an unacceptable interference in the internal affairs of Islamic countries,” said Sheikh Mahmud Azab, an adviser to the university’s grand imam Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayyeb.
“Egypt considers the latest statement by the Vatican to be an unacceptable interference in its domestic affairs,” said a statement from the Foreign Ministry.
“Egypt will not allow any non-Egyptian faction to interfere in its internal affairs under any pretext,” it said. “The Coptic question is specifically an internal Egyptian affair.”
Then, on January 19, Arab leaders meeting in Egypt denounced “foreign interference in Arab affairs, especially over the region’s Christian minorities” (Al Arabiya News Channel, January 19).
Al Azhar is hugely influential in the Sunni Islamic world, and used to play a leading role in inter-faith dialogue. Its representatives used to discus Islamic-Christian affairs with the Vatican twice a year.
Their breaking off that dialogue sets an example for the whole Muslim world.Expect tensions between the Vatican and the Islamic world to continue to rise, as the two religions move toward a dramatic clash. For more information, see our article “The Pope Is Furious.”